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Monthly Archives: February 2011

It’s the Worst Sunday Morning Since Last Week

February 28th, 2011 - 4:43 pm

Hair of the Dog: We’ve got three — count’em, three – GOP governors on the Sunday chat shows, and David Gregory conducts the Worst. Interview. Ever.

Bonus: Christiane Amanpour’s excellent Libyan adventure.

Start Me Up

February 28th, 2011 - 11:42 am

Bill Gates and the future of nuclear power:

Thanks to his role funding and guiding a start-up called TerraPower LLC, where he serves as chairman, Mr. Gates has become a player in a field of inventors whose goal is to make nuclear reactors smaller, cheaper and safer than today’s nuclear energy sources. The 30-person company recently completed a basic design for a reactor that theoretically could run untouched for decades on spent nuclear fuel. Now the company is seeking a partner to help build the experimental reactor, and a country willing to host it.

Me. I’ll host it. Put the thing in my back yard and I’ll plug my whole house into the thing.

More seriously, there’s been talk for years about building tiny nuclear power plants using spent fuel rods, so it’s nice to see something like progress. Or as my high school physics teacher once said, “Don’t bury nuclear waste too deep — your children will curse you. There’s still plenty of power to be gotten out of that stuff.”

Well, that was 25 years ago and our kids need the cheap power. We need the cheap power. Bring it on.

It Couldn’t Have Happened to a Nicer Law

February 28th, 2011 - 10:15 am

How unpopular is ObamaCare? Now Obama is trying to untangle its mess:

Senior administration officials said Mr. Obama would reveal to the National Governors Association in a speech on Monday morning that he backs legislation that would enable states to request federal permission to withdraw from the law’s mandates in 2014 rather than in 2017. The earlier date is when many of the act’s central provisions take effect, including requirements that most individuals obtain health insurance and that employers of a certain size offer coverage to workers or pay a penalty.

Politically-connected business can opt out of ObamaCare. Politically-connected unions can opt out of ObamaCare. Now even the states can opt out of ObamaCare. The only ones left stuck with the damn thing are you and me.

When In Danger Or In Doubt…

February 28th, 2011 - 8:30 am

And so it begins:

More than 100 Saudi academics, activists and businessmen have called for reforms in the conservative kingdom, including the establishment of a ”constitutional monarchy”, in a statement published on the internet.

”We will submit these requests to King Abdullah at a later stage,” said Khaled al-Dakhil, a teacher of political science at the King Saud University and one of the 123 signatories of the petition.

Elsewhere in the Kingdom:

Democracy activists in Saudi Arabia say the government is closely monitoring social media to nip in the bud any protests inspired by uprisings that swept Arab countries, toppling leaders in Egypt and Tunisia.

Which leads to this very germane point:

The clock is ticking on this and somebody better be paying attention if Saudi Arabia wants to continue avoiding the unrest that’s sweeping the region. Handouts buy time, but only so much.

Does the White House have any kind of plan in case the House of Saud falls? What we’ve seen so far (or rather haven’t seen so far) regarding Libya and Egypt isn’t exactly promising.

A Simple Plan

February 27th, 2011 - 9:52 am

Dear Virginia,

There’s only one way left to make the Oscars less boring: Don’t watch ‘em.

It’s worked for me for years.

Yours,

-S.

Lessons Learned

February 26th, 2011 - 10:25 pm

Remember last summer, when you could first get OEM two terabyte hard drives for $99? What a deal!

Caution: They have an expected mean time between failures of… well, whenever yesterday equals.

Homeschooling Your Protestors

February 26th, 2011 - 8:10 am

The real stakes in Libya, San Francisco finds the global warming and Paul Krugman takes the blue pill — all on another exciting episode of… The Week in Blogs!

Trifecta: Real doctors, fake notes — how far will the left sink to protect its labor scam in Wisconsin?

Energizer Bunny Tries Xoom, Smacks Forehead

February 24th, 2011 - 12:30 pm

Walt Mossberg already got his hands on a Xoom tablet (of course), and reports that he only got 7.5 hours of battery life for video — four hours fewer than his iPad. But then there’s this:

There are some downsides. The ability to play Flash video—a big Android selling point—won’t work on the Xoom at launch. It will take some weeks to appear.

Battery life will only get worse — potentially much worse — once Flash is installed.

Honeycomb looks to be a pretty great tablet OS. But Xoom has fail written all over it.

UPDATE: But, wait — there’s less! From the Popular Mechanics lightning review:

In the hand, the Xoom is about the same weight as the iPad, although it’s narrower bezel makes it look sleeker. The fit and finish, though, was a bit embarrassing. Maybe our Xoom was a pre-production unit that somehow slipped through quality control, but it had a raised seam across the back that felt as if the plastic were about to pop open at any moment and spill its circuitry all over the floor. Plus, I knew that 4G would have to wait until an upgrade was available, but I was totally shocked to discover that the microSD slot isn’t currently functional as well.

The back is plastic?

Glenn Derene didn’t mention battery life, presumably because a “lightning” review doesn’t allow enough time to wind it down.

A Cunning Plan

February 24th, 2011 - 11:41 am

AOL content boss David Eun is out:

The reason he’s leaving? “There isn’t a role that matches what I am seeking to do,” he says in a memo to staff. Now that Arianna Huffington is the editor-in-chief for all AOL content, Eun isn’t needed.

You might remember Eun as the author of the much-hated “AOL Way,” which turned the company’s paid bloggers into feudal serfs, or something like that.

Anyway, Ariana Huffington has now made herself the new darling of AOL, which I’m sure was a totally unintended consequence.

Open the Pod Bay Doors, HAL

February 24th, 2011 - 9:22 am

Trifecta: It’s another members’ only grab bag featuring your questions about Obama, Israel, and IBM’s new Jeopardy champ computer.

Obama’s Friends and Enemies

February 23rd, 2011 - 10:51 am

It’s the new Firewall.

YouTube Preview Image

Product Review: The New Apple TV

February 23rd, 2011 - 8:45 am

We’re big Apple TV fans here at Casa Verde. We have three of the old models, one for each TV. Sure, they get too hot and lose their iTunes streaming connections way too often, but they make it easy to sort through our ripped and purchased collection of movies and TV shows. And at about 3,000 TV episodes and nearly 1,400 movies (yes, I have my own private Netflix), it’s important to be able to get to what you’re looking for quickly and easily.

So I ordered one of the new models from Amazon and my initial impression is: One step forward, two steps back.

The pros: Tiny, won’t overheat, rock solid wifi connection, responds to the remote control very snappily — like mind-reading fast. Love the Netflix connection. Great for iTunes rentals. Super easy to set up. And the aluminum remote is a delight to hold, even if I still hate the duplicated Select button.

The cons: Using the goddamn thing.

The original Apple TV was a stripped-down Mac with a hard drive and everything. So when it loaded up your media library, it stayed loaded until you exited or rebooted. With our massive library, it took about two minutes to load all the info wirelessly, but at least you didn’t have to wait through that again for a few days.

The new Apple TV is a stripped down iPad. And with only 8 gigabytes of memory on board, cruising through your movie genre folders is one endless “Loading Media Library” message after another. It’s essentially unusable for family that owns lots of media.

Sorting through TV shows is another disaster. Previously, each TV show was a folder. Use the remote to select the folder and Apple TV would take you automatically to the oldest unwatched show. Or to the oldest show, if none had been watched. New Apple TV displays each and every season of each and every show as its own folder. So if I want to scroll down to watch the latest Justified, instead of scrolling past about 40 shows, I now have to scroll past 119 seasons of shows. And then wait for the “Loading Media Library” rigamarole to finish as it gathers the info for the Justified folder. And, no, you can’t change the sort options.

Unacceptable.

Oh, and a nitpick. The indicator light on the front of the unit flashes to confirm remote control clicks. But either the light is too bright or the contrast with the black of the unit is too high, so it catches your eye every time you click. For a company which prides itself on staying out of the users way, that little light is a distinctly non-Apple like distraction.

If the TV sorting and indicator lights were the only problems, I’d keep mine and wait for the inevitable software update. But that 8GB of memory is an unfixable hardware limitation — and it makes it unbearable to get to what you want to see.

Verdict: Apple TV is great for streaming Netflix and iTunes rentals, but otherwise it’s a pretty epic fail.

I’m sending mine back.

There Are Some Harder Questions, Too, Right?

February 23rd, 2011 - 8:03 am

Trifecta: Who are the real fat cats — the public service unions, or the taxpayers forced to support them?

Also With Bonus Gratuitous Lindsay Lohan Slam

February 22nd, 2011 - 5:50 pm

Trifecta: The bad decisions of the past have caught up to the present in Wisconsin — but where do we go from here? Scott Ott takes us to the future in a very special episode.

On the Air Two-night

February 22nd, 2011 - 4:19 pm

At 8PM Eastern I’ll be on The Rick Moran Show with (I think) Monica Showalter and Rich Baehr to talk about the madness in Madison and election chicanery in Chicago. And then a little later, with my good friend Ed Driscoll on The Delivery with Jimmie Bise to talk politics and pop culture.

A good time will be had by all.

Catching Up is Hard to Do

February 22nd, 2011 - 8:10 am

It seems I spent the weekend gargling Brillo™ pads and coughing up whole live sardines — the Crud hit hard, after a winter without so much as a sniffle. Don’t you just hate getting sick on a holiday weekend? But there’s still The Week in Blogs and a special President’s Day Trifecta for you.

Just because I’m late doesn’t mean you need to miss them. Click and enjoy.

Going Galt on the Big Screen

February 18th, 2011 - 1:46 pm

Despite some pretty serious reservations, I can’t help but get excited about the new Atlas Shrugged movie.

It’s actually looking pretty good.

It’s Not Your Father’s Civil Rights Leader

February 18th, 2011 - 1:37 pm

Jesse Jackson is doing his thing in Madison:

Jackson told the protesters they were fighting for a just cause. He told them to hold strong to their principles and continue fighting to kill the bill. Then he led the masses in a rendition of “We Shall Overcome.”

Dr. King fought to overcome a century of Jim Crow, lynchings, and other various and sundry horrors. Jackson has joined the fight to overcome fiscal sanity and in support of intransigent public sector unions even FDR loathed.

Glad to know where you stand, Jesse.

A Few Unhappy Thoughts on the Middle East

February 18th, 2011 - 10:59 am

The crackdown begins in Bahrain:

Bahraini security forces have opened fire on anti-government protesters, witnesses and opposition activists say.

The protesters were fired on after they had streamed into the centre of the capital Manama from the funerals of protesters killed in a security crackdown earlier this week.

Witnesses said the army fired live rounds and tear gas, and officials said at least 25 people had been hurt.

I know some Glenn Beck fans are probably reading this, but anarchy is a much more likely outcome than Caliphate. Not that either result would be especially good for our interests. Al Qaeda & Co thrive in failed states — but what happens in a failed region?

Truth be told, the Arab world has been failing for a long time. The region combines a long history of Ottoman oppression, lingering resentment from the fleeting period of Western colonialism, ballooning populations and shrinking economies, a malign fascination with Nazi racial theories and Soviet-style politics, and the skewed absurdities of oil wealth and Western aid. Shake it all up with the murderous and nihilistic resentments of Islamic fundamentalism, and you get lots of angry, well-armed people with no experience in self-governance and lots of scapegoats in need of a good killing.

This will get worse before it gets better.

Required Reading

February 18th, 2011 - 10:37 am

Krauthammer:

Classic Obama debt reduction: Add $2 trillion in new taxes, then add $1 trillion in new spending and, presto, you’ve got $1 trillion of debt reduction. It’s the same kind of mad deficit accounting in Obamacare: It reduces debt by adding $540 billion in new spending, then adding $770 billion in new taxes. Presto: $230 billion of “debt reduction.” Bialystock & Bloom accounting.

Brutal. Read the whole thing.

An Open Letter to Mr. Daily Kos

February 18th, 2011 - 9:22 am

Dear Mr. Moulitsas,

May I call you Kos? I know everybody else does. Thanks. Anyway, last night you wrote an open letter of your own, on Twitter. It was brief, of course. Surveying the goings-on in Wisconsin, you said, “Dear Tea Baggers, It’s our turn now.”

Well, I suppose it is. And now that both sides have had their turns, let’s compare and contrast. I can’t keep this quite as short as your tweet, but I’ll do my best.

Your people left their protest area looking like this.

We Tea Party folks tend to police our areas with a touch more respect — like this.

Tea Partyers take a day off work, or protest on the weekends.

Your union friends call in “sick” and stage what amounts to an illegal walk-out, leaving thousands of kids with no schools to attend for days on end. It just now occurred to me to wonder what those kids’ working parents are doing with the kids out of school. Will they get their pay docked for having to stay home? Your union friends will probably get full pay — for abandoning their students.

Tea Partyers worry that too much deficit spending is leading the country to ruin.

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Space is Big

February 17th, 2011 - 12:51 pm

The Hubble Space Telescope has been taking pictures from low earth orbit for 21 years already, and it’s still doing OK work.

From the Space.com story:

A stunning new photo from the Hubble Space Telescope shows newborn stars studding a galaxy like bright blue jewels.

The spiral galaxy, called NGC 2841, lies in the constellation Ursa Major, about 46 million light-years from Earth. Hubble’s newest instrument, the Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3), took the photo, in which newborn stars show up as bright blue clumps.

The universe is a pretty cool place.

It’s the New Firewall

February 17th, 2011 - 9:46 am

Iowahawk called it “brutal,” but I think he understates the case.

By the Numbers

February 17th, 2011 - 8:54 am

The New York Times editorial page is in a frenzy this morning. Read this:

Are there any adults in charge of the House? Watching this week’s frenzied slash-and-burn budget contest, we had to conclude the answer to that is no.

First Speaker John Boehner’s Republican leadership proposed cutting the rest of the 2011 budget by $32 billion. But that wasn’t enough for his fanatical freshmen, who demanded that it be cut by $61 billion, destroying vital government programs with gleeful abandon.

Even that wasn’t enough for leaders of the hard-line Republican Study Committee, which represents two-thirds of House Republicans. They proposed cutting another $20 billion, for a ludicrous total of $81 billion, all out of the next seven months of government operations.

$81 billion is less than 4% of outlays for the next seven months, and just over 2% of total spending for the entire year. The Pelosi & Reid boosted federal spending by more than 25% in the four years they ran Congress — now that’s ludicrous.

Responding to Your Every Desire

February 16th, 2011 - 2:43 pm

Trifecta: It’s another members’ only grab-bag, with questions taken right from viewer comments.

China First, America Second

February 16th, 2011 - 2:35 pm

Autoextremist Peter De Lorenzo on the future of the auto industry:

The cars and crossovers we buy in this country from now on will be designed for China and then tailored for this market. And not the other way around. The U.S. in effect has gone from being a “mature” market to becoming a second-tier automotive market for the first time since this industry was invented. And it has happened basically overnight too.

Read the whole thing.

Xoom Pricing Announced, Regretted

February 16th, 2011 - 1:07 pm

Motorola’s Xoom tablet will be priced at $600 for WiFi and $800 for 3G. And if these pictures are any indication, the build quality and materials aren’t up to iPad standards.

Costs more, looks cheaper — Xoom is starting to have Fail written all over it.

Come With Me If You Want to Live

February 16th, 2011 - 11:06 am

Via Insty, did the Singularity just happen on Jeopardy? Good question, but here’s the bit that caught my eye:

Great story from CNN. The human champion describes Watson as a Terminator. It never gets tired, bored, has stage fright, gets cocky, or intimidated. It just keeps coming… answering general knowledge questions better than the best Jeopardy players on the planet. Scary right?

I thought back immediately to 1997, and a column Charles Krauthammer wrote on the occasion of chess grand master Garry Kasparov’s loss to IBM’s Deep Blue:

You might think it is a little early for fear. Well, Garry Kasparov doesn’t think so. “I’m not afraid to admit that I’m afraid”, said perhaps the most fearless player in the history of chess when asked about his tentative play. When it was all over, he confessed why: “I’m a human being, you know. When I see something thing that is well beyond my understanding, I’m scared.”

OK, I understand that one really shouldn’t draw conclusions from two data points. But we can certainly speculate!

In both cases, the computer seemed …unhuman… to its human opponent. That much we can attribute to the persons, and not the machine. But — Kasparov didn’t actually use the word “Terminator,” but you could slip it into his statement above and it would fit just fine. The machine just keeps… coming… at you.

The machine is remorseless, it seeks to win. And then it does win. That’s something we need to keep in mind, because right now, the cold science facts look eerily like the dystopian science fiction.

Listen, and understand. That terminator is out there. It can’t be bargained with. It can’t be reasoned with. It doesn’t feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And it absolutely will not stop, ever, until you lose on Jeopardy.

Fire Bernanke (Again)

February 16th, 2011 - 7:57 am

The problem during the Great Depression, all the smart people thought, was that prices were too low. That’s right, with 15-25% unemployment, what people really needed was to pay more for stuff. So Washington did everything it could to prop up prices, including for labor, and yet the economy never picked up and poor and unemployed people remained poor and unemployed.

This might be the single stupidest idea that ever got into Washington’s head, and it went on for years. The only thing that shook it loose was the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Things aren’t quite so bad today. There’s growth, if anemic. Only one in ten is unemployed, although chronic underemployment is quite a bit higher — 22% in California. And what lies behind our problems? You guessed it: Prices are too low. And, this is the real kicker, our own Fed Chairman thinks inflation is too low. So he’s pumping $600,000,000,000 of fairy land money into the economy, monetizing half this year’s deficit (no, wait — a six and eleven zeroes is now only a third!) to prop up prices.

Well, Bernanke is certainly getting his wish, according to today’s NYT. Read:

Cotton prices are near their highest level in more than a decade, after adjusting for inflation, and leather and polyester costs are jumping as well. Copper recently hit its highest level in about 40 years, and iron ore, used for steel, is fetching extremely high prices. Prices for corn, sugar, wheat, beef, pork and coffee are soaring. Labor overseas is becoming more expensive, meanwhile, and so are the utility bills to keep a factory running.

And yet here’s your fearless Fed chairman just last week:

“I think it’s entirely unfair to attribute excess demand pressures in emerging markets to U.S. monetary policy, because emerging markets have all the tools they need to address excess demand in those countries,” he said in answering a question from the audience. “It’s really up to emerging markets to find appropriate tools to balance their own growth.”

But what about our markets, Ben? Low growth and high unemployment ain’t exactly stoking the inflationary fires right here at home — and yet the higher prices are coming, anyway.

Pretty soon, we’re going to have to start rolling over trillions of dollars of short-term, low-interest debt into yet more short-term, higher-interest debt. The part of the Federal budget devoted to just paying the interest on the debt could very well triple in just five years. That would make debt service — just paying the interest, no principle — about equal to defense spending.

And this is how we’re going to achieve the growth necessary to put people back to work and get this debt to a manageable size?

Bernanke’s job is to protect the value of the dollar and promote full employment. Instead, he’s wrecking the dollar and pricing people out of the job market.

It’s time for him to go. Again.